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3. Athene and Her Owl: the Wisdom of the Greeks
(v) Cynics and Sceptics

From Stoicism proper it is a short step to that disparate phenomenon – more of a mood than a movement – that was called Cynicism. The Cynics (again, our English meanings let us down here, though there is some overlap) prided themselves on pouring scorn on all human pretension. They barked and yapped, like dogs, at the rich, the respectable, and any who gave themselves airs.131 I have written about this movement elsewhere, and do not need to repeat that analysis,132 except to say that it is possible (and some scholars have developed this suggestion) to see Paul himself as in some ways like a wandering Cynic. Certainly his emphasis on parrh?sia, ‘freedom of speech’, in 2 Corinthians and elsewhere, coincides strikingly with the same theme in Cynic thought.133 Though our sources for the Cynic movement are much thinner in Paul’s day than in earlier and later centuries, the portrait of the Cynics in Epictetus indicates that the tradition was alive and well in the first century. Epictetus seems to have regarded this movement as a kind of extreme version of Stoicism, though as with all extremes it led some of its members to positions that the larger body would not have held.134 Certainly he warned that anyone wanting to be a Cynic should prepare himself to face flogging, and be prepared as well to love the people who were flogging him – a double message with interesting echoes in the New Testament.135...

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